Friday, 16 August 2013

The Howe Sound Crest Trail

Kilometer after kilometer this trail will overwhelm your eyeballs!
Howe Sound Crest Trail photos HERE

It's been on my "to do" list for a couple years, and I promised myself to do it this summer.With the realization that the end of summer is fast approaching I did some final internet research on the Howe Sound Crest Trail, packed my day hike kit and the night before my hike I drove my vehicle to the Porteau Rd. trailhead and rode my bike back to the city.

I knew this hike was going to be tough, but the chance to leave right from my front door was just too enticing. So despite the added km's and vertical meters, at 6:30 am I started from my house and walked appoximately 12km up to the Cypress Mtn. ski hill parking lot, which is the Southern trailhead for the 29 km long Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT).

I have hiked to St Mark's summit before a couple of times, its a lovely day hike in its own right and something that those who are not up for the hike to the Lion's or beyond can more easily manage. The views are great, the trail is perfectly marked and the conditions are physically tough, but technically not too demanding.
Almost feels like you are in a plane - the view from St Mark's summit
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After you get past St Mark's summit things do change quite a bit.

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In this short clip I gasp as the bugs swarm me, I bring the video to a quick close and run!

This part of the trail though is still pretty well traveled as it leads to the base of the "Lions" the 2 mountains that are the iconic natural symbols of the North Shore - used in numerous company logos. And this one...

The Lions
 The hike to the Lion's is quite popular and many people will climb to the top of the West Lion. This is not an easy climb and it does have some significant danger. Not exactly my cup of tea.
After the Lions the trail continues along as a spectacular ridgeline trail up and over James Peak. The going in this section is slow, but the visual rewards are simply superb.
 The trail markings were at times a bit deteriorated, but the trail was not too hard to find. After the Davids Peak bypass I found the start of the trail up Harvey Creek Col. less than obvious. I had written out route cues from info on the BC Parks website (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/cypress/hsct_text.pdf) and had this info in my pocket. I did not know what a "Col." was but figured it would be obvious when I got there. The trail deteriorated near a dry (very steep) creek bed so figured that's what Col. referred to. Though I'm still not sure. There was evidence of human passage, but not exactly a trail in this place. I went to the "map" page on my gps watch and did my best to follow the trail on my watch while clutching onto some very tough bushes habitating this very steep slope. The lack of trail was prettty short lived before I was on an obvious and well marked boulder field. I am not sure if I missed something. I backtracked a few times to look for markings, but in the end decided to follow the gps as earlier in the hike it had seemed to be following the trail quite well.

After the bouldery section I found myself on a section that was pretty overgrown and bushy. It was an ex-foliating experience for the bare legs, but not too tough to follow. It started to rain, but it was warm and as I was working quite hard the rain felt pretty good. No need for any extra clothing. Turned out it was just a short lived shower anyway.

The trail became much easier and better defined on the approach to Magnesia Meadows. The scenery in the Meadow was lovely as was the view to the ocean. The emergency hut is on some pretty special real estate.

After climbing out of the meadow the trail turned away from the ocean views and entered into enchanted forest mode.

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Amazing vegetation, waterfalls and a chain of mountain lakes!

The downhill trail to Brunswick Lake was a treat for the senses as one could see the lakes approaching in the distance and hear the waterfalls off of Brunswick Mountain.

The color of Brunswick Lake was stunning.

Now that's qualifies as super-blue!
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Brunswick Lake is first in a chain of three small mountain lakes. The trail follows the creek as Bruswick drains into Hanover Lake.

The "bridge" across Brunswick Lake
There was a waterfall as the creek flowed into Hanover Lake.
And Hanover Lake then flowed into the largest lake of the three, Deeks Lake.
Deeks Lake with Brunswick Mountain behind
After walking around Deeks lake there was a log jam to be crossed on foot as the Lake drained into Deeks creek.

The trail then followed the creek for much of the way down. You could hear it and often see it. There was one pretty spectacular waterfall.
The trail was pretty steep and a bit tough on the legs at the end of a long day. I stopped and chatted to a couple of young women who were stopped and kind of cursing all the downhill. I showed then my hiking poles (a new thing for me), and explained their virtues on such a downhill trail. Watching them struggling I realized it had been a very good idea to carry 500g of poles on my pack the whole day for this final 7km of descent.

The final 3.5 km to the parking lot was on a logging road. I was happy to see my truck and even happier to open the small cooler I'd left in the back with a few post hike snacks.

What an amazing trail and terrain we have so accessible to city. One must be grateful for those whose vision and efforts helped to protect this area as a provincial park, and of course to the many volunteers who have worked to develop and maintain this very special trail.

This is a tough and demanding trail but the rewards are well worth it. A few people (not many at all) will consider this a tough trail run, I'll say its a tough day hike, others take it on as a demanding multiday backpacking trip. This is a special trail and just another example of the embarrassment of riches in natural beauty we are so fortunate to enjoy in BC.

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